The Norman Transcript

April 23, 2013

NPS making college-readiness investment

By Caitlin Schudalla
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — A lengthy awards ceremony was followed by an in-depth informational discussion on the district’s latest college-readiness investment at the Norman School Board meeting Monday evening.

Norman Public Schools’ general funds, bolstered by a $67,000 grant for Norman High and Norman North high schools, will implement AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) in both schools, introducing a new elective class and teacher support program designed to boost representation of under-served demographics in Advanced Placement classes.

“Our AP courses are an opportunity for our students to really step up and be challenged and apply their experience of being challenged beyond high school,” Superintendent Joe Siano said. “The equity aspect of participation in AP became of particular concern to us, and we have to ask ourselves, ‘Do the AP classrooms reflect the demographic of the district?’”

Siano said NPS administrators also identified a shortage in what he referred to as a “safety net” for students needing additional academic or emotional support as they pursue the district’s most rigorous coursework.

According to AVID Program Manager Rachel Henley, criteria for the ideal AVID student will be eighth and ninth graders who display a disparity between a low grade point average and high performance on aptitude tests.

“We look for the middle students — those who are getting through but not excelling. Those who display a gap between performance and potential, and those who display college potential if appropriately supported,” Henley said.

AVID also targets youths who may be first generation college students, low-income, historically underserved at the college level or those struggling due to special circumstances.

“Fifty-five percent of AVID students nationwide are Hispanic and 70 percent qualify for free and reduced lunch,” Henley said. “We will establish a four-year, four-section elective class which students will take from freshman to senior year.”

AVID’s website states that AVID has been implemented in more than 4,800 school sites across the country, with the highest concentration in the central and southern United States.

Questions from board members Don Shandy, Linda Sexton and Dan Snell addressed the program’s strategy for rentention, potential conflict with arts electives and program cost to the district, respectively.

“We will commit general fund resources to this because it is a long-term plan which fits into our AP initiatives,” Siano said. “This is something we need to be doing, and the grant helps us accelerate it.”

In addition to the informational presentation, the board also heard a presentation on results of the district’s Staff Development Report, an update on the year’s four Citizens Advisory Council meetings and approved continued employment of contracted certified teaching staff.

The meeting’s awards assembly honored students from elementary to high school for academic, athletic and even culinary excellence, occupying the first hour of the meeting and drawing a standing-room only crowd of parents, friends and school staff.

For local news and more, subscribe to The Norman Transcript Smart Edition, or our print edition.